Music Review: "DAMN." Kendrick Lamar Album


After his release of "The Heart Part 4" and his music video "HUMBLE." (which stirred up a lot of controversy and debates with his "photoshop" line), Compton emcee Kendrick Lamar has blessed the hip-hop community with his fourth studio album "DAMN". Although fans were expecting a 4/7 release date, the album was set to release on 4/14, but leaked online a day earlier and was put on iTunes a few hours later.

Contrary to his jazz music infused 2015 album "To Pimp A Butterfly", the direction for his "DAMN" album is a lot more mellow, laid back sensation with a dash of trap production. Even Kendrick's flow has changed a bit on tracks like "LOVE" and "LOYALTY" although his unorthodox delivery remains. There are three features on this album from artists Rihanna, U2, and Zacari.

I was wondering if  Kendrick was trying to step away from the "conscious"/"woke" label that, in my opinion, fans and critics have stamped him with. Vlad Sepetov who designed Lamar's album cover even mentioned the "DAMN." cover is "loud and abrasive" and "not uber political like To Pimp A Butterfly". Personally, I'm getting a Madison and Pulaski hype vibe from it, but okay, cool. In all seriousness, after listening to all of the tracks and grasping an idea of the overall theme, the album cover aesthetic reminds me of Lamar being troubled, battling spirituality, earthly lusts, and even institutionalized racism. Similar to the discography work of one of Lamar's idols, the late 2Pac, the thematic nature of Biblical mentions points out that Lamar may desire to "do right" although battling with his flesh.

Even though this record does not have to main focus of police brutality and racism as in "TPAB", Lamar still raps "ain't no Black power when your baby killed by a coward, I can't even keep the peace, don't you f*ck with one of ours". He even juxtaposes between the term "yah" and the Hebrew word for "god", "YAH" on his track "YAH.":

"I'm not a politician, I'm not 'bout a religion
I'm a Israelite, don't call me black no more
That word is only a color, it ain't facts no more...
And Deuteronomy say that we all been cursed
I know He walks the earth..."

I found it interesting that he even mentioned "I transform like this, perform like this, Was Yashua's new weapon" in "DNA.", a Black empowerment anthem of royalty that includes the audio of Geraldo Rivera's harsh and insane criticism of the rapper's 2015 BET Awards set.

As mentioned before, there appears to be a theme between struggling with spirituality and the "lusts of the earth" heard in songs like "PRIDE." and "LUST." Plenty of references to prayer, sin, and the Bible. "FEAR." is introduced with a speaker named "Cousin Carl" mentioning the Bible scripture "Deuteronomy 28" (refer to the song "YAH." and the relation the Hebrew Israelite culture and spiritual system) in reference to Kendrick feeling that people haven't been praying for him on "FEEL." and in the beginning of "HUMBLE.".

"Why God? Why God do I gotta suffer? Earth is no more, why don't you burn this m*therfucker?" 

One of my favorite songs off of "DAMN." is "FEAR.". While the beat is very mundane, the focus on the reiterated bars in the first verse "I'll beat yo ass" gives the essence of classic storytelling within the culture of hip-hop as Kendrick speaks to, I'm assuming, an out of control child.

Although I'm not a big fan of the melodious production, I do think it's very unique and the simplicity helps in pivoting the lyrics. I appreciate the transitions in songs like "DUCKWORTH." and "XXX." with U2. There's even a dash of dancehall in "LUST.", backmasking on "FEAR." and "DUCKWORTH", and I'm getting a "Straight Outta Compton" feel in the transition of "XXX.". Lyrically speaking, I think Kendrick delivered on this album as he always does. Although he is a mainstream artist and there needs to be a balance between uber lyrical songs and mainstream tracks, I'd still like to hear him push the limits on his lyrics even more. I also must mention that I hear pretty strong influences of Curtis Mayfield, of course 2Pac, and Andre 3000 all throughout this body of work.

"DAMN." steps away from the anti-racism, pro-Black joy centered subject matter of "TPAB" and steps into what seems clashes with carnality and spirituality. "DAMN" is so personal, Kendrick even titles his last song after his last name "DUCKWORTH." After listening a few times, "DAMN." made me say "DAMN.".

Rating: 8/10

What are your thoughts on Kendrick Lamar's "DAMN" album? Comment below!


CONVERSATION

2 comments:

  1. I haven't fully listened to it. Your detailed review has made me sure of purchasing it. Great review.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks love. If you're a hip-hop fan, I'm sure you may enjoy it.

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